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ED 301 755 

CE 051 551 








Withers, Nancy A. 

Sexual Harassment: An Overview. Monograph. Volume 2, 
Number 1. 

Ohio State Univ., Columbus.. Instructional Materials 

Ohio State Dept. of Education, Columbus. Div. of 
Vocational and Career Education. 
Feb 87 

8p.; Document contains colored ink and paper. 
Guides - Classroom Use - Guides (For Teachers) (052) 

MFOl/PCOl Plus Postage. 

*Civil Rights; Compliance (Legal); ^Federal 
Legislation; Females; Males; Postsecondary Education; 
Secondary Education; *Sex Discrimination; *Sex 
Fairness; *Sexual Harassment; Work Environment 
Civil Rights Act 1964 Title VII 


Sexual harassment is a problem in high schools, on 
college campuses, and in the workplace, although unclear definitions 
and misinterpretations of sexual harassment have led many to believe 
that the amount of sexual harassment that occurs is minimal. Sexual 
harassment has been defined as a continuum of be^aviorSr with 
physical sexual assault at one extreme and nonverbal, sexually 
suggestive behavior at the other extreme. Studies suggest that more 
females than males are victims of sexual harassment. Sexual harassers 
are usually males in a position of authority who can force the 
cooperation of the victim by coercion. Sexual liarassment leads to 
fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger for the victims; many victims feel 
they should have done something to prevent the harassment. Persons 
who feel they are being harassed should take immediate, firm steps to 
stop the behavior. They should document the incidents in case a suit 
is filed. They can complain to the appropriate officers in their 
organization or to the state or federal agency that has jurisdiction 
in the matter. Some organizations have published written guidelines 
forbidding harassment and specifying the actions that should be taken 
by persons who feel they have been harassed. (KC) 

********************** **^^^***jt* **************** 

* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made 

* from the original document. 



Nancy A. Withers 

Center for Sex Equity 
The Ohio State University 
College of Education 
Instructional Materials Laboratory 

Volume 2, Number 1, February 1987 


Offtce 0' EducattOPdl Research and Improvement 


r MmOr CharvQei have been made to improve 

• Pomisotvieworopin or^'staledimthisdocu- 

menX do not necessanty represent o fiCral 




Published by the Center for Sex Equity, The Ohio State University, College of Education, Instructional 
Materials Laboratory, 154 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1302, Marcia Fear-Fenn, Director, 
through a grant from the Sex Equity Section, Division of Vocational and Career Education, Ohio Department 
of Education. Volume 2, Number 1, February 1987 

Many people involved in high schools, college cam 
puses, and employment situations talk about sexual 
harassment as a passing agenda. Research in this 
area suggests that men and women do not have a 
clear understanding about what constitutes a sexual 
harassment situation or problem. This is due pri- 
marily to the historical acceptance of sexual ha- 
rassment as a private rather than a public issue. 
Also, the traditional socialization of men (to accept 
aggressive behavior) and women (to reject aggressive 
behavior) interferes with the interpretation of what 
is considered courting, flirting, or sexually harassing 
behaviors. The following statements help identify 
and clarify sexual harassment issues. 

— Sexual harassment is a problem in high schools, 
on college campuses, and in the workplace. 

— Women are sexually harassed more frequently 
than men. 

— Sexual harassment not only affects the person 
being harassed but also affects others around 
that person. 

— People who are in roles of authority, like teach- 
ers or supervisors, may he ir a position to 
sexually harass others but are not the only 
persons who sexually harass others. 

— The way women dress and act is not neces 
sarily an invitation to sexual harassment. 

— Saying no to sexual harassment does not nec 
essarily cause it to stop. 

— Sexual harassment will not go away by denyinp 
its existence. 

— Most schools, colleges, and other organizations 
do not have adequate policies for handling 
sexual harassment issues. 

Er|c 5 

People formulate opinions about sexual harassment 
based on their own axperiences. Because our society 
is uncomfortable discussing sexual feelings and sex- 
ual issues, many observers and involuntary partic- 
ipants in sexual harassment situations are unwilling 
to discuss the existence of the problem. To avoid 
the unpleasantness of such an encounter, many of 
those involved choose to ignore the entire issue. 
Some even attempt to substitute a positive feeling 
toward the problem — interpreting sexual harass- 
ment as flattery, for instance — rather than admit 
to themselves and others their true feelings of help- 
lessness or fear. 

The unclear definitions and misinterpretations of 
sexual harassment have led many to believe that 
the amount of sexual harassment that occurs is 
minimal in schools, colleges, and the workplace. 
Once the problem of sexual harassment has been 
exposed and is understood, it is likely that individual 
harassers will be held more accountable for iheir 
behavior by both men and women. 

This monograph is a collection of researcn on sexual 
harassment which defines the issue, describes how 
people are affected, suggests options for people 
who are sexually harassed, and offers preventative 
alternatives to promote at schools and other 


Federal legislation, specifically Title VII of the Civil 
Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employment discrim- 
ination on the basis of race, color, religion, national 
origin, and sex. The importance of this legislation 
is that it prohibits sex discrimination in employment. 
Subsequent federal legislation. Title IX of the Ed- 
ucation Amendments of 1972, established the un- 
lawfulness of sex discrimination against students and 
employees in all educational institutions receiving 

federal assistance. In addition, Title IX lequires all 
educational institutions to establish grievance pro- 
cedures for alleged discrimination on the basis of 

In 1978, Farley coined the term sexual harassment 
and identified this activity as a form of sex discrim- 
ination. She described sexual harassment as an act 
that involves unsolicited, nonreciprocal, aggressive 
male behavior directed toward a female. Prior to 
this date, no name existed for this type of behavior. 
In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Com- 
mission developed Guidelines on Discrimination Be- 
cause of Sex, which offered a more complete 
definition of sexual harassment. 

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual 
favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of 
a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment 
when 1) submission to such conduct is made 
either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition 
of an individual's employment; 2) submission to 
or rejection of such conduct by an individual is 
used as the basis for employmen decisions af- 
fecting such individual; 3) such con Jt has the 
purpose or effect of substantially inteuering with 
an individual's work performance or creating an 
intimidating or offensive working environment. 
(Congressional Federal Register, 1980, p. 74676) 

Under these guidelines, an employer is responsible 
for the acts of his or her employees, regardless of 
whether the employer knew about the sexual ha- 
rassment or not. 

By 1981, the Office for Civil Rights of the United 
States Department of Education developed a work 
ing definition of sexual harassment. 

Sexual harassment consists of verbal or physical 
conduct of a sexual nature, imposed on the basis 
of sex, by an employee or agent of a recipient 
that denies, limits, provides different or condi- 
tions the provision of aid, benefits, services or 
treatment protected under Title IX. (Office for 
Civil Rights, 1981) 

Few laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment, 
however, with the passage of those previously men 
tioned laws, it Is clear that the issue of sexual 
harassment is gaining more attention. Previous un 
clear definitions of sexual harassment had created 
anxiety about human interactions. Today, this anx 
iety exists as some people struggle to determine 
the difference between sexual harassment and court 
ing behavior. The clear difference between those 
two behaviors is that one is unwelcome behavior 
and the other is welcome. 

Sexual harassment has been defined as a continuum 
of behaviors, with physical sexual assault at one 
extreme and nonverbal, sexually suggestive behavior 
at the other extreme. Specific types of physical 
harassment include unwanted touching, patting, 


grabbing, or pinching, extending an (Sveity friendly 
arm around the shoulder, brushing up against a 
person's body, kissing or attempting to kiss, coercing 
sexual intercourse; and committing physical assault 
or rape. Specific verbal and/or nonverbal behavior 
that is sexually harassing can be identified as follows: 
insulting sounds oi whistles, conversations that are 
too personal, offensive verbalizations, sexually 
suggestive remarks, humor and jokes about sex, 
derogatory comments about the opposite sex, inap- 
propriate comments about the body, offers of money 
for sex, constant embarrassing comments, obscene 
gestures, or staring in a way too personal. 

Sexual harassment occurs when sexual language or 
behavior is unwanted, unwarranted, and threatens 
the ability of individuals to participate and benefit 
freely from that environment. Some examples of 
sexual harassment within the educational setting 

—Bob was the only boy in the cosmetology class. 
All the girls in the class teased him and made fun 
of him. One girl really gave him a hard time, making 
sexual remarks and suggestions. When he told the 
teacher, she replied that he had better get used to 
the harassment if he wanted to be a cosmetologist. 

— Christine was one of the few girls in her welding 
rlass. She wanted to take more welding classes, 
but the teacher frequently belittled the girls and 
had them sweepinc the floor and taking attendance. 
She knew she was not getting the experience she 
needed, but the teacher told her not to worry and 
winked at her. 

— A teacher frequently asked students to stay after 
school just to talk. This teacher was known to hug 
and touch students, and gave better grades to those 
who would stay late and comply. 

— A male student and some of his friends kept 
making sexual remarks to one particular girl. They 
pressed her against a class oom door and kept her 
from leaving. She often was embarrassed by the 
rude comments they made about her body. 

Sexual harassment is an invasion of privacy and a 
violation of a person's rights. Harassing activity 
implies an imbalance in power whereby one person 
dominates the other or intimidates the person to 
force consent. There is a certain power that is 
derived from either the educational or occupational 
setting that gives the harasscr a certain claim to 
control. Sexual harassment ic i way a person forces 
sexual attention on someo^.e r.iy <Joes not want it. 

Studies suggest that more females than males are 
victims of sexual harassment. Surveys have typically 
found that females are two to three times more 


* likely than males to report having been the target 
of sexual harassment. If the occurrence of sexual 
harassment, as suggested in research, reflects real- 
ity, then it appears that about half of all women 
will face sexual harassment on the job or during 
their education. 

One of the problems in collecting information about 
sexual harassment is that the subject is sensitive. 
Therefore, many respondents are unwilling to dis- 
cuss harassing experiences with anyone. This sug- 
gests that the actual occurrence of sexual harassment 
may be much higher than what has been reported. 

In 1981, the United States Merit System Protection 
Board (USMSPB) sampled 23,000 federally em- 
ployed men and women over a two-year period. 
Forty-two percent of the women and 15% of the 
men reported experiencing sexual harassment in the 
workplace. Somers' (1983) research cited studies 
that reported the incidence of sexual harassment 
among female employees to be as high as 92%, 
One half reported they had been fired or knew 
someone who had been fired because of sexual 
harassment. Research conducted by Benson and 
Thomson (1982) found that 30% of the under- 
graduate women at the University of California, 
Berkeley, had been sexually harassed at some time 
during their four years of study. In another college 
study involving 1,178 students, Schneider (1982) 
found that 17% of the women and 2% of the men 
reported being sexually harassed by their teachers. 

This author could find no research conducted with 
students below the college level. This is not to 
<^ "^gest that sexual harassment does not exist be- 
tween teachers and studeiits at lower levels. In 
addition, no research was found that discusses the 
existence of sexual harassment between teachers 
and administrators below the college level. The 
concern here is that if the issue is not being discussed 
and revealed, then students may be learning at a 
young age that sexual harassment is appropriate 
behavior; therefore, in future interactions in the 
workplace, they may accept the behavior rather 
than confront it. 

Sexual harassment occurs when a person who is in 
a position to control, influence, grade, or pay an- 
other person use^ 'lis position of authority to coerce 
the other person into unwanted, sexually suggestive 
situations and to threaten punishment if she or he 
refuses to comply. The act of sexual harassment is 
one way a harasser can control his or her environ- 
ment by utilizing intimidating behaviors to force the 
cooperation of the victim (Hemming, 1985). In one 
study it was determined that 75% of the male 
harassers were in a position to hire or fire female 
employees (Sechler, 1981). Sexual harassers almost 
Q ys act alone, and frequently harass other tar- 

gets. In addition, the harassing behavior often is 
directed toward the victim consistently over a long 
period of time (USMSPB, 1981). 

Research conducted by Tangri and Johnson (1982) 
and Farley (1978) indicates that sexually harassing 
behaviors are most often conducted by men who 
are older, in positions of high status, married, and 
somewhat unattractive. On the other hand, men 
who report beiag sexually harassed by women iden- 
tify the women as being younger, single, and at- 
tractive. More women than men have been harassed 
by their superiors (Hemming, 1985). 


Research conducted in the area of sexual harass- 
ment has identified women as being the most likely 
to be harassed. The following list describes women 
who are commonly harassed: 

-single and divorced women 
-women trainees 
-younger and older women 
-women pioneers in nontraditional careers 
-lower-salaried women 
-women with high dependence on their job 
-women in graduate school near the age of the 
-minority women 
-unassertive or passive women 
-women who appear to be confident 

In a 1981 USMSPB survey of federal workers, it 
was found that males who reported being the target 
of sexual harassment were most likely to report 
that rhe incident involved homosexual harassment. 
While this research concluded that few men are 
being sexually harassed by women, Pryor's (1985) 
research recognizes the existence of this behavior 
by women. Because women tend to consider sexual 
advances as more threatening than men (Gutek, 
Morasch, & Cohen, 1983), perhaps this accounts 
for the low reporting and labeling of sexual ha- 
rassment of men by women. 

Morris, Terpstra, Croninger, and Linn (1985) have 
identified the following warning signals of sexual 
harassment. If an individual has any of these 
thoughts, it is likely that he or she is being harassed. 

-I can't believe this is happening to me. 

-I hate you for doing this to me. 

-If I say anything, everyone will think I'm crazy. 

-Just leave me alone. 

-What is going to happen next? 

-I wish I could get away from all this. 

-Why doesn't anyone help me? 

Many of those who are sexually harassed are un- 
willing to discuss the experience until years later, 
and often hesitate to call it sexual harassment 
(Somers, 1982). They often blame themselves and 
believe that others, upon learning about the incident, 
would blame them too. Because of this, those ha- 
rassed often feel isolated from the very people who 
could support them. Sexual harassment can provoke 
many emotional responses. Some of the more com 
mon emotional responses include the following. 












Many of those who have been sexually harassed 
feel they should have done something to prevent 
it. They appear to be somewhat apologetic. Some 
fear the expression of the anger they feel because 
they want to guard against being seen as a trou- 
blemaker. This masked anger eventually explodes 
into defensiveness. Often people fear the sexual 
harassment will be repeated. Sexually harassed per- 
sons may lose their self-confidence and may feel 
th?ir self-image is damaged. 

Hemming (1985) identifies some possible physical 
consequences of sexual harassment. Sleeplessness 
and tiredness, migraine headaches, coronary heart 
disease, problems with weight and diet, and other 
physical illnesses can occur as a result of being 
sexually harassed. Some sexually harassed persons 
abuse drugs and alcohol to escape the pressure and 
anguish caused by the harassment. 

Other consequences of sexual harassment can in- 
clude a decrease in job satisfaction and a barrier 
to long-term career prospects. For example, a ha- 
rasser could encourage lack of cooperation from 
coworkers; offer negative job evaluations or poor 
personal recommendations; deny overtime; demote 
the victim; provide injurious transfer and reassign- 
ments of shifts, hours, or locations of work; set 
impossible performance standards; and/or demand 
the termination of the employee (Farley, 1978). 

Even though sexual harassment affects people in 
different ways, no research has identified any pos- 
itive consequences derived from it. 

Before sexual harassment can be dealt with, it is 
necessary to understand the nature of this particular 

ER?C 6 

behavior and the prevalence of the problem. In 
addition, people need to understand their rights as 
students and/or employees and the appropriate 
ways of confronting sexual harassment. As a social 
problem, this type of behavior can be difficult to 
identify and prove. Cultural and individual differ- 
ences exist in communication patterns, thus, what 
one considers sexual harassment, another may not. 
It is possible that some harassers actually may not 
know tnat others find their behavior unc^cceptable. 

If you or someone you know is being harassed, it 
is best to take some action to discontinue or prevent 
this type of behavior. The situation is likely to 
worsen if the harassed person remains silent. Over- 
looking obvious sexually harassing behaviors may 
indicate the acceptance of this behavior. Suggestions 
on how to deal with sexual harassment include the 

— Do not laugh at the harassing behavior. 

— Share your problem with an adult friend, family 
member, or colleague. 

— Review your organization's policies and pro- 
cedures on sexual harassment. 

— Discuss the issue with a knowledgeable person 
in the organization; for example, a supervisor, 
director of personnel, equal employment op- 
portunity officer, or affiimative action officer. 
(It is important to go to the appropriate official 
before complaints of incompetence filter down.) 

— Avoid being alone with the harasser. 
-Talk with other students or coworkers to see 
if they have been harassed. Complaints, from 
a group carry more weight than those from an 

— Keep a written record documenting as precisely 
as possible what happened, when it took place, 
and any witnesses. This will be important if 
charges are filed. 

— Ask witnesses to verify your experience. 

— Make it known in front of other people that 
this type of behavior is offensive and 

— Give the harasser a firm no at the first sign 
of sexual harassment. Tell the harasser, in per- 
son or by le.ter, that this behavior is 

Employees and students have the legal right to work 
and learn in an environment free from discriminatory 
intimidation, ridicule, and insult. Although only a 
few cases on sexual harassment have ever been 
won legally, recent court rulings have made organ- 
izations more responsible for this behavior. Federal 
action can be taken by contacting the Equal Em- 
ployment Opportunity Commission, Women's Bu- 
reau, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, DC 
20506. A complaint to this organization should be 
filed within 180 days of the last alleged harassment. 
State action can be taken by contacting the State 
Equal Opportunity Division (EEO), 30 East Broad 

Street, Columbus, Ohio 43266-0408. A complaint 
to this organization should be filed within 30 days 
after the last alleged harassment. A sexually ha- 
rassed person is not required to initially file a 
grievance with his or her institution, however, some 
institutions will not handle grievances after they 
have been filed with state or federal EEO offices. 
Further information about sexual harassment can 
be obtained through the Office for Civil Rights, 
Region V, 300 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 
60606, and the Committee Against Sexual Harass- 
ment, 65 South Fourth Street, Columbus, Ohio 

There are many ways that schools and other or- 

ganizations can identify, confront, and prevent sex- 
ual harassment. For example, a survey among 
students and employees could determine the extent 
of the problem. Organizations could develop pre- 
sentations and other programs to educate students, 
faculty, employees, and supervisors of the sensitive 
issues surrounding sexual harassment. 

Title VII and Title IX are important pieces of 
legislation that indicate sexual harassment in the 
workplace or academic environment is illegal. Each 
organization should develop a specific policy state- 
ment regarding sexual harassment and identify what 
constitutes sexual harassment. A sample of the 
actual guidelines posted by Akron Public Schools 

SEXUAL HARASSMENT Akron Public Schools prohibits any form of 
sexual harassment. Equal Employment Oppor- 
tunity Commission Guidelines— Title VII of the 
Civil Rights Act of 1964— specify that all Akron 
Public Schools' employees are entitled to a work 
environment free from sexual harassment and 

Sexual harassment is a form of misconduct that 
undermines the integrity of the employment re- 
lationship. It is an attempt to control, influence, 
or affect the career, salary, or job of an individual. 
Sexual harassnr.ent may include, but is not limited 

-Creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive 
work environment; 

-Repeated offensive sexual flirtations; 
-Advances or propositions; 
-Continued or repeated verbal abuse of a sexual 

-Graphic or degrading verbal comments about 
an individual or his or her appearance; 
-The display of sexually suggestive objects or 
pictures; and 

-Any offensive or abusive physical contact. 

If you have questions or concerns regarding sexual 
harassment, contact your immediate superior or 
William W. Spratt, Title IX Coordinator for the 
Akron Public Schools, or any other representative 
of the Personnel Office. 

Division of Personnel 

and Administration Conrad C. Ott 

November 1984 Superintendent of Schools 


Policy statements should be distributed to employees 
and students. In addition, people should be en- 
couraged to file a complaint or discuss a potential 
violation. A complaint officer should be identified 
and should be familiar ^ith the process of filing a 
grievance. The method of discipline for such be- 

haviors should be known, and action should be taken 
immediately with regard to the victim's privacy. It 
appears that one of the best ways to handle the 
sexual harassment problem is to offer as many 
awareness opportunities as possible and to imple- 
ment an ongoing preventative program. 


Benson, D. J., & Thompson, G. (1982). Sexual 
harassment on a university campus: The conflu- 
ence of authority relations, sexual interest, and 
gender stratification. Social Problems, 27(3), 236- 

Congressional Federal Register. (1980, November 
10). Chapter XIV, Section 1604.11, 45(219), pp. 

Farley, L. (1978). Sexual shakedown. New York; 

Gutek, B., Morasch, B., & Cohen, A. G. (1983). 
Interpreting social-sexual behavior in a work set- 
ting. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 22, 3048. 

Hemming, H. (1985). Women in a man's world. 
Sexual harassment. Human Relations, 38(1), 67- 

Morris, J., Croninger, B., & Linn, E. (1985). Tune 
in to \;our rights, A guide for teenagers about 
turning off sexual harassment. Ann Arbor, MI. 
Center for Sex Equity in Schools, The University 
of Michigan. 

Office for Civil Rights Policy Memorandum (1981, 
August 31). From Antonio J. Califa, Director for 
Litigation, Enforcement and Policy Service, OCR 
to Regional Civil Rights Directors. 

Pryor, J. B. (1985). The lay person's understanding 
of sexual harassment. Sex Roles, 13, 273-286. 

Sechler, J. A. (1981). Communication skills sex equity 
training. Columbus, OH. The National Center for 
Research in Vocational Education. 

Somers, A. (1982). Sexual harassment in academe: 
Legal issues and definitions. Journal of Social Is 
sues, 35(4), 23-32. 

Somers, P. (1983, Winter). Sexual harassment and 
employment. Why college counselors should be 
concerned. I^ational Association of Women Deans, 
Administrators and Counselors Journal, 46, 43-46. 

Tangri, M. R., & Johnson, L. B. (1982). Sexual 
harassment at work: Three explanatory models. 
Journal of Social Issues, 35(4), 33-54. 

U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. (1981). Sexual 
Harassment in the Federal Workplace. Is it a Prob- 
lem? Washington, DC. U.S. Government Printing 

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